Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind

School starts tomorrow, and I'm kind of bummed that Phil Done, one of the most beloved teachers at our school, won't be teaching 3rd grade this year. Oh, well; there goes The Pea's chance of getting him as a teacher. Hopefully 3Po or Jammy will get him when their turn comes. But our loss is everyone else's gain -- Mr. Done is back on the publishing circuit with his new book, Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind. He was kind enough to let me read an advance copy of his book. Here's what I thought:

The Basics

In Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind, Mr. Done, an award-winning teacher with over 20 years' experience, chronicles the year in the life of a third-grade classroom. From the Back-to-School hubbub to the Halloween Sugar Overload to the final goodbyes at the end of the year, his collection of classroom tales offer funny and touching insights into what it's like being a third grader, and a teacher to third graders.

The Bongga

I enjoyed reading Close Encounters just as much as I enjoyed his first book, 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny! If anyone gets kids, it's Phil Done. He know all their tricks -- but he's game enough to go with the flow when his class leads him into new territory. Which means he constantly finds himself in situations that are hilarious, inspiring, and oh-so-real. And thank God he remembers to write it all down.

So Phil has got the material.... and even better, he's got the style. Just like his first book, I shed many tears while reading it -- both tears of laughter and tears that flow when one is truly touched. I would find myself sobbing through one chapter and laughing through the next. Fortunately Mr. Done has a gift for balancing the silly and the sentimental; after a particularly heartwrenching story, Mr. Done takes mercy on his readers and follows it up with a section that's lighthearted and funny (like when he reads a student's science paper and reminds her that Organism should always be spelled with the "ni").

The Blah

People who've read 32 Third Graders and One Class Bunny may wonder why they need to read Close Encounters -- isn't it more of the same? To that I would say, there are just too many good stories to fit into one book!

The Bottom Line

This book gets top marks from me -- and it should be on the Required Back-to-School Reading List for:

* Teachers, because this book gets what you go through day after day;

* Parents, because it's nice to know that your kids drive other adults crazy, not just you;

* Oh, what the heck, this book is for everyone who has ever been in the third grade, because it'll bring back some great memories of a time when the only thing important in life was which animal you got from the box of animal crackers.

I received a product sample for this post, but no monetary compensation. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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